By Carlos S. Alvarado
Rhine Research Center

Past PA President (1970) and Public Information Officer of the Association (1974-1983), Robert (Bob) Van de Castle, well-known as a dream researcher and parapsychologist, passed away on January 29th in Charlottesville, Virginia, due to complications arising from a stroke. The sad news of his passing led me to remember the first time I saw him. This was in Charlottesville during the 1980s. For a short time Bob came to weekly lunch meetings held at the University of Virginia’s Division of Parapsychology (now Division of Perceptual Studies), where I was a Research Assistant. There I got my first exposure to his interest in dreams and psychodynamics.

Bob had a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of North Carolina (1959). He was Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center (he retired in 1993). In this University he was Chief Psychologist for the Adult Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic (1986-1992), Director of the Sleep and Dream Laboratory (1967-1985), and Director of the Clinical Psychology Internship Project (1980-1992). He also taught and held positions in other institutions before he became affiliated with the University of Virginia.

In the area of dream studies, Bob was the author of Our Dreaming Mind (1994), one of the best general overviews of dreams studies available. He also wrote The Psychology of Dreaming (1971), and was the second author with Calvin Hall of Studies of Dreams Reported in the Laboratory and at Home (1966) and of the classic and influential book The Content Analysis of Dreams (1966). In this work Hall and Van de Castle developed a coding system for the study of dream content based on the study of a great number of dream reports. Some of the categories included in the system were characters, social interactions, misfortunes and good fortunes, and emotions.

Throughout his career Bob published many articles about various topics in psychological forums, but his main interest was dreams. Bob was also intensely interested in parapsychology. He spent time at the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University (1954-1955) where he conducted experimental projects about ESP and psychokinesis. Bob’s first parapsychological research report was An Exploratory Study of Some Variables in Individual ESP Performance (Journal of Parapsychology, 1953), a paper he published while he was a graduate student at the University of Missouri.

For a period, mainly during the 1970s, he became known for his writings about parapsychology and anthropology, as seen in Parapsychology and Anthropology (in B. Wolman (Ed.), Handbook of Parapsychology, 1977). In addition to his interest in dream ESP research, Bob was a successful producer of psychic dreams, a talent evident in his participation in the experimental dream ESP program conducted at the Maimonides Medical Center, in Brooklyn, New York, and which earned him the title of “The Prince of the Percipients.” Among his other parapsychology-related published articles are:
A Report on a Sentence Completion Form of Sheep-Goat Attitude Scale (with R. A. White), Journal of Parapsychology, 1955; Differential Patterns of ESP Scoring as a Function of Differential Attitudes Toward ESP, Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1957; The Facilitation of ESP Through Hypnosis, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1969; Psi Abilities in Primitive Groups, Proceedings of the Parapsychological Association, 1970; An Investigation of Psi Abilities Among the Cuna Indians of Panama. In A. Angoff and D. Barth (Eds.), Parapsychology and Anthropology, 1974; Sleep and Dreams. In B. Wolman (Ed.), Handbook of Parapsychology, 1977; Psi Manifestations in Multiple Personality Disorder. In L. Coly & J. McMahon (Eds.), Psi in Clinical Practice, 1989; Dream ESP. In C. Roe, W. Kramer & L. Coly (Eds.), Utrecht II: Charting the Future of Parapsychology, 2009; and (with R. Dwyer and B.A. Pimm) Dreams as a Multidimensional Expression of Psi, Explore, 2010. 

Bob continued to be intellectually active during the last years of his life, working on many projects that he shared with his partner Bobbie Ann Pimm. Only a few days before his death, Bob was in Panama to study the Kuna, or Cuna (now Guna) People. In an email that he wrote on January 27th to Lisette Coly, the President of the Parapsychology Foundation - the organization which funded his early research - he commented on this trip. He wrote that he had been collecting accounts of dreams and conducting some ESP testing. “Efforts were limited,” he said, “because the school was on vacation, but we managed to interact and test with about 40 students.” Bob was intellectually active until the end. Bruce Greyson informed me that Bob was at a meeting at the Division of Perceptual Studies, in Charlottesville, Virginia, a few hours before he had his stroke. Bob Van de Castle is no longer with us, but his work remains. This, and his personality, will never be forgotten by those who knew him. My condolences to his family and friends.